L'Emploi du temps / Time Out (Laurent Cantet, 2001)

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Gordon
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L'Emploi du temps / Time Out (Laurent Cantet, 2001)

#1 Post by Gordon » Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:01 pm

Anyone here seen that movie, Time Out from 2001? Ugh, Jesus, what a fucking boring movie! No other movie equals the first 25 minutes of this one in the boredom stakes. Or the humourlessness stakes. The cinematography is by-the-book and as you can probably imagine, that is always a major disappointment for one such as I.

It is that old chestnut - the double-life movie, but unlike Crimes of Passion, the guy doesn't cruise the streets for Johns. The themes of the film are relatable, but who is this story aimed at? It isn't told in an imaginative way and the protagonist isn't particularly sympathetic. But with all that, the film seems to be well-regarded. Once again, I am at odds with modern Cinema. :|

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MichaelB
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#2 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:11 pm

Gordon wrote:Once again, I am at odds with modern Cinema.
Clearly, as I thought it was an absolutely stunning piece of work - and by calling it "that old chestnut - the double-life movie", you reveal that you've seriously missed the point. Though I suspect this is because you seem to be reading it in visual/narrative terms, whereas its real strengths are psychological and sociological. (That said, I thought it was pretty damn effective in the mise-en-scène department too, especially for a relative newcomer).

I remember seeing it not long after that dismally superficial film about Nick Leeson, Rogue Trader, and thinking that it was a vastly superior study of the psychology of someone like Leeson - and I suspect there are quite a few of them around.

By which I mean someone under such huge social and financial pressure to succeed, and so conscious of the gulf between his own aspirations and the tedious reality of day-to-day work, that he ends up retreating into his own fantasy version of "success", while at the same time having to continue to engage with the real world - usually with disastrous consequences, especially when the wall of lies constructed to separate these two worlds gets breached.

And the reason the protagonist isn't particularly sympathetic is because he's utterly convincing. Someone like this wouldn't be especially sympathetic, or particularly amusing. And that's another reason I found the film to be so devastatingly effective: Vincent doesn't seem to get any pleasure out of his situation, but once he's in it he can't escape except by telling more lies or running away. I absolutely didn't want to identify with him on any level, but I found that the film was constantly challenging me to admit that I might well have ended up doing something very similar if I'd been stupid enough to get into his predicament in the first place.

The real tragedy is that he'd probably be OK if he simply came clean to his wife, who really does love him - but this would involve admitting his many failures, so he finds it psychologically impossible. In this I'm reminded of one of the most revealing moments of the Barings crisis, when quite by chance Nick Leeson managed to get his account back in the black. He could have stopped trading then - but he would have had to admit that he'd been living a lie for the past two years. The film's full of such quietly telling moments.

One film that it reminded me of very much was Jerzy Skolimowski's marvellous Moonlighting, which I rediscovered a few years ago after not having seen it since its original release in 1982. That's another film about a man who consciously places himself in an increasingly impossible situation because he thinks it's the easy option at the time - in this case a Polish builder in London who decides to lie about the December 1981 military crackdown to his non-English-speaking colleagues in order to get the job finished. Soon afterwards, he finds that this one major lie has to be topped up with umpteen minor ones on an almost hourly basis until he ends up being forced to shoplift just to feed everyone - and when they find out what's really been going on, as they inevitably do, the consequences are even less pleasant. Again, the protagonist isn't an especially nice character (Jeremy Irons was perfectly cast here) and again, the film isn't remotely funny - but it also rang just as horribly true.

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Michael Kerpan
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#3 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:42 pm

Another good film that deals with a businessman pretending to still be employed -- Miwa Nishikawa's (woefully under-recognized) "Hebi ichigo" (Wild Berries) -- though the primary focus shifts to the (adult) children of the family, once the situation is set up.

Still waiting to see the Cantet film.

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MichaelB
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#4 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:59 pm

Another very similar film is Stephen Frears' One Fine Day (which I reviewed here) - which thwarted expectations by combining an Alan Bennett script and a lead performance by the Irish comedian Dave Allen while (deliberately) failing to generate a single laugh for much of the running time.

But like Time Out, it's a study of a man under extreme pressure at work who is clearly cracking up but who absolutely refuses to admit that anything's wrong - and it's not too hard to imagine Cantet's protagonist Vincent doing something similar when he decides to move into the office building he's supposed to be renting out to clients and live a blissfully isolated existence there.

And while we're making connections, I'm very grateful to Gordon for reminding me about Cantet's film, as I've become utterly addicted to this shamefully riveting blog which initially appears to be a laceratingly masochistic confessional by a failed California real-estate developer until you realise that the whole thing is a massive exercise in self-deception: its author gives us tons of detail while completely failing to grap the big picture.

Like Vincent, he's absolutely bought into a perfect mental image of his ideal existence, and he's determined to live as though it were real, despite the fact that he's haemorrhaging money (and how - he has virtually no income and monthly mortgage/credit card bills of around $20,000) and sooner or later reality is going to collide with him with the speed of a bullet train overshooting the terminus. I'm not quite sure how this would work as a film - for various reasons, I think a blog is the ideal medium, especially as the story is ongoing - but it's exactly the sort of situation that Cantet dramatises.

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Cinetwist
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#5 Post by Cinetwist » Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:31 pm

I thought it was bloody fantastic as far as the narrative, representation, motives and psychology went. I knew of a man who was in a similar situation and I'm sure there's been loads. I thought it was a fantastically real portrayal of what is probably a relatively modern phenomenon. And it's the only film I've seen to tackle the issue.

I thought the cinematography was good. Suited the subject matter anyway. I'd certainly like to see another of his films. I didn't realise it was well regarded though. I'd never heard it discussed until now.

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MichaelB
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#6 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jan 10, 2007 7:03 pm

Cinetwist wrote:I didn't realise it was well regarded though. I'd never heard it discussed until now.
It was the reviews that persuaded me to see it, as I knew nothing about the people behind it. Here's an example - re-reading it, I was fascinated to see that although Cantet adapted a true story, he deliberately omitted a real-life murder, presumably thinking it was too melodramatic for his story (even though it actually happened!)

A few months later, BBC4 showed his earlier Human Resources, which I also thought was outstanding, if slightly more schematic. I haven't seen his only other feature, Heading South, though I probably should.

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Gordon
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#7 Post by Gordon » Thu Jan 11, 2007 1:23 pm

Terrific insights, Michael. On reflection, it was a good story, though the style wasn't particularly to my taste - and I have to admit that I have been watching many highly stylized films of late, but it has some beautiful night scenes. I just felt very restless while watching it and I wish it was a bit more tightly edited - the opening should certainly be shorter. don't you agree? It probably didn't help that I had been up for 15 hours when I sat down to watch it, so I was certainly too harsh in judging it. Films - serious, sombre films - about white-collar workplaces can sometimes be hard to get caught up in. Another thing that disappoints me with Time Out is that the story is perhaps a little too straightforward: a man is fired from his job and he covers it up from his wife and friends by scamming money from them - and we are in on this after the lugubrious prologue. I just couldn't care about this guy and I really thought that he had killed himself after leaving his car in the field - but no, he gets a new accounting job... and then what? What an achievement! Is this a film about the irrationality of pride? That a man has a 7-month period of mindlessness and that I am supposed to take the denoument for some kind of redemption? The guy shouldn't have got himself into such a banal predicament in the first place. I could have bought it, if he had been a bumbling idiot, but he seemed like a clear-minded, intelligent fellow, not some strung-out, desperate soul like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, for example! Or Michel in Pickpocket, where there is a spirtual dimension to the character arc - in Time Out, Vincent just seems to be delaying the inenvetable, knowing what his ultimate action will be. So what was all the fuss about?! :wink:

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colinr0380
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#8 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:46 pm

MichaelB wrote:I've become utterly addicted to this shamefully riveting blog which initially appears to be a laceratingly masochistic confessional by a failed California real-estate developer until you realise that the whole thing is a massive exercise in self-deception: its author gives us tons of detail while completely failing to grap the big picture.

Like Vincent, he's absolutely bought into a perfect mental image of his ideal existence, and he's determined to live as though it were real, despite the fact that he's haemorrhaging money (and how - he has virtually no income and monthly mortgage/credit card bills of around $20,000) and sooner or later reality is going to collide with him with the speed of a bullet train overshooting the terminus. I'm not quite sure how this would work as a film - for various reasons, I think a blog is the ideal medium, especially as the story is ongoing - but it's exactly the sort of situation that Cantet dramatises.
That is very disturbing - I'm torn between not caring (who in their right mind buys eight properties? He must have been overdosing on buy-to-let TV programmes! I just wish the same thing would happen to some of the presenters of those shows!), and just feeling very, very sorry for the guy. I feel a bit evil for being curious to see the inevitable happen and get reported on the blog (although wouldn't his computer get repossessed, not letting us know what happens?), which is why I also hope this is a made up site!

Talk about black comedy! Some of the posts are disturbingly funny - beginning with the debt, moving on to empty motivational speak (A healthy body is a healthy mind!) and exercise regimes, long rambling discussions of how he won't get into long rambling discussions and will face up to his debts, a small glimmer of realisation of the horror, concluded by the dark slide into reading passages from the Bible (always a bad sign!)

And he has some horrible, stingy bastards as family members (although they have a good grasp of irony!):
Christmas Gifts from Family: A tie and gifts cards for books and juice. Energizer batteries to remind me to "keep going".
What will they get him next year? His own burial plot with personalised tombstone? :shock:

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Gordon
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#9 Post by Gordon » Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:02 pm

That guy needs to break into Williamson's office and steal the Glengarry leads, pronto before Alec Baldwin comes back with his brass balls.

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#10 Post by kieslowski » Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:54 pm

MichaelB wrote:I was fascinated to see that although Cantet adapted a true story, he deliberately omitted a real-life murder, presumably thinking it was too melodramatic for his story (even though it actually happened!)
There's a very good book about the real-life story: The Adversary, by Emmanuel Carrere. But you're quite right that, ironically, Cantet's adjustments to the story make for a more believable film.

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dadaistnun
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#11 Post by dadaistnun » Fri Jan 12, 2007 9:32 am

Nicole Garcia made a film based on Carrère's book, with Daniel Auteuil in the lead role.

Time Out left me a near emotional wreck when I saw it theatrically. I don't look at the ending as redemptive at all; the look in Vincent's eyes doesn't exactly inspire confindence.

Image

Aurélien Recoing is excellent in the role and I think he's equaled in every way by Karen Viard.

We picked up the dvd used a couple of years ago but still haven't really felt like watching the film again. Something about it really stuck a nerve in a most uncomfortable way.

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Gordon
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#12 Post by Gordon » Fri Jan 12, 2007 11:47 am

dadaistnun wrote:Time Out left me a near emotional wreck when I saw it theatrically. I don't look at the ending as redemptive at all; the look in Vincent's eyes doesn't exactly inspire confindence.
Indeed. What should he do? Life is a stuggle for all, no matter what the individual's status is within society. But always remember: I am my world. Wittgenstein said that and understanding what is meant by it - that man is the microcosm of the world, no matter what 'goes wrong'. The protagonist in Time Out wanted to provide for his family and failed, but he eventually re-achieved his goal. What he should now do is spend more time with his family. Or...? What is it that he wants from life? Does he consider himself to be an accountant or... something else? One of the great questions in life - perhaps even the question is: How does one become what one is? In the fullest, most uncompromised sense of what that means? Friedrich Nietzsche tried to answer this most vexing question, using haunting and striking metaphors that smolder in the mind for a lifetime and provide a worthwhile path through the centreless labyrinth that is the modern world.

So, does Vincent feel that he is living in oblivion like the family in Micheal Haneke's, The Seventh Continent? People feel alienated today in a world devoid of strong values, which is why the moral teachings of the Koran, Bible and the Vedas have been so comforting for zillions of people over the ages - the idea that there is a 'Something' that unifies all things and protects all things (the concept of Providence varies in Judaism, of course) and drew this map for living. Many people - including myself - have rejected this map, but few become their own cartographer. We the audience don't know enough about Vincent to see where the solution to his ennui may lie. With films like this, I just end up thinking: "What does the filmmaker expect from me now?" - to solve this riddle? Or simply to feel that the world has become alienating and the human race atomized? I was aware that beforehand! Your preaching to the choir! :wink: I'm not impressed - at least attempt to provide a solution to the sufferings presented in your film. The viewer should attempt to solve them too, of course. Love and compassion are undeniably the answer.

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